“In Poland, you can be a man.” – my cab driver (strange mustache)
I’ve never really had a good experience with Poland. Every time I toured through there, it was the worst parties and the crummiest people. Six hour 105-degree train rides (that’s fahrenheit, by the way…deal with it) with beer-swilling/spilling metal meatheads across the country to DJ for five minutes before the promoter yells ‘IT’S MY BIRTHDAY, LET ME PLAY SOME TRACKS.’ Club owners shutting the party down because the music is ‘for gays’. Caustic vomit, which is a sweet name for a crust band but horrible at 4am. Poland was just not my thing. That was before my job sent me to Kattowice for OFF Festival, where I saw Converge, The Stooges, Pissed Jeans, Chromatics, Thurston Moore, Savages, and not Swans because fuck my life. But it wasn’t necessarily the great shows I saw that changed my mind. It was getting to know that the city (as well as some of my co-workers) was just as strange as I am.
There’s plenty of oddities and bleak weirdness for a tourist willing to just wander anywhere, whether it’s respectful or not. Sonya and I poked around abandoned-looking apartments (they weren’t), bridges wherein lurked nose-picking crackwhores (pobyt w szkole!) and some of the most amazing graffiti I’ve ever seen. Wonderful and unexpected stores selling self-published books about magick and the occult. Bus stops with one-legged old ladies who point at you until you’re out of sight, and the show up later in your dreams with knives for eyeballs. Dense graveyards with laughing children skipping through them. The best-tasting burger I’ve ever had served by a mean-looking white dude with dreadlocks who looks like he spends all day eating candy in the dirt on the ground. And, charmingly, there’s also really, really chill kids who recognize you from your blog and you feel all blushy. Naturally, I only took one picture the whole time I was there and it looks like it’s on fire for some reason. Burning Madonna is just one of the mysteries of life, I suppose.
For the first time ever, I felt a bit sad to be leaving Poland. I suspect most of that came from saying goodbye to Sonya, who I consider family, but I’ll miss more about Poland than just her upbeat, happy weirdness. I’ll miss the free hotel room and the open bar too.